Explains phobias, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

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How can I help myself cope?

There are various things you can try to address your phobia and reduce the impact it has on your life. Some people find these ideas useful but they may not be for everyone – only try what you feel comfortable with.

Talk to someone you trust

You might find that talking to someone you trust about your phobia can help. It may be that just having someone listen to you and showing they care can help in itself.

Learn to manage panic and anxiety

Learning to manage the panic and anxiety you feel as a result of your phobia can be really difficult, but it can help you feel more in control and less anxious about facing the situation or object you fear.

  • Try some relaxation techniques. These can help you to manage the anxiety you feel as a result of your phobia. There are many different relaxation techniques available, ranging from meditation to breathing control and stretching. (See Exploring relaxation for more information.)
  • Learn to manage panic attacks. If you experience panic attacks, learning to manage these can help to reduce the anxiety you feel about facing the situation or object you have a phobia of. (See our page on panic attacks for more information.)

Instead of trying to prevent myself from being afraid, I accept that I will be, and try to cope with the fear as it happens. This is less exhausting and in general it’s helped me better cope.

Join a support group

Join a peer support group. A support group gives you the opportunity to share common experiences and methods of coping with others who are facing similar challenges. It is sometimes very comforting to know that you are not alone, and other people may be able to suggest different ways of coping. Mind Infoline or No More Panic can help you find a suitable local group.

Try online support groups. This can be particularly useful if there are times when you can’t leave the house or if you find it hard to talk to people on the phone or face-to-face. Websites of national support organisations – such as Mind’s Elefriends community or Anxiety UK’s forum – can offer support, and are monitored to make sure they are safe. (See How to stay safe online for more information about how to use these resources safely.)

Find the best support network you can – whether that's friends, family or people you meet online. Having the right people backing you can make all the difference in the world!

Use self-help resources

Some people find self-help books or online programmes helpful for coping with phobias. They are often based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and will help you develop your own programme to reduce anxiety and make it easier to face your fear. There are many available – search online or contact an organisation like Anxiety UK or No More Panic for more information.

Reading Well Books on Prescription are self-help books that your doctor might prescribe for you. You are also able to buy them online and they may be available in your local library.

You could also try online self-help programs, which you may have to pay for or you may be able to access free through your GP. For example, there are several app-based CBT courses recommended on the NHS apps library, which you can search to find an app that may work for you. 

Always remember that phobias are not life threatening and you are bigger than your phobias. A phobia is only as big as we make it and only as small as we make it, and it can be beaten.

Courses to help people with specific phobias

Some organisations across the UK run courses to help people overcome specific phobias. For example, some airline companies and airports hold courses to help people overcome their fear of flying, and some zoos help people reduce their fear of spiders or snakes. These courses vary in how they are run but many are based on hypnosis or CBT principles such as exposure therapy. Courses vary in price and availability.

If you think you might benefit from something like this, talk to your doctor about whether this would be a good source of help for you.

This information was published in March 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

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